The Southbank Center is launching a public art and poetry project to celebrate and showcase the contributions of key workers who have kept the country running during the COVID-19 crisis.
The original portraits produced by the artists – whether in the form of paintings, drawings, photographs and text – will be reproduced as large-scale posters and displayed throughout the Southbank Center from mid-August to November 2020 .
The portraits and poems will be distributed in prominent places and popular alleys across the 11-acre site in a sort of outdoor gallery accessible to all free of charge.
The Southbank Center commissions new portraits of key workers and everyday heroes from some of the UK’s foremost contemporary artists, including Turner Prize winners Lubaina Himid and Jeremy Deller, and rising international painting stars, including Michael Armitage and Ryan Mosley.
Along with these works of art, newly commissioned poems will celebrate and illuminate the often unrecognized lives of key workers, with contributions from Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, 2019 Ted Hughes Prize Winner Raymond Antrobus, TS Eliot Prize Winner 2020 Roger Robinson and rising stars including poet and nurse Romalyn Ante and City of Bristol poet Vanessa Kisuule are writing poems that will be displayed on the site.
Participating artists include: Michael Armitage, Lydia Blakeley, Jeremy Deller, Lubaina Himid, Mahtab Hussain, Matthew Krishanu, Evan Ifekoya, Ryan Mosley, Janette Parris, Alessandro Raho, Silvia Rossi, Benjamin Senior, Juergen Teller and Barbara Walker. Poets include: Raymond Antrobus, Romalyn Ante, Simon Armitage, Vanessa Kisuule and Roger Robinson.
In many cases, portraits are the result of close personal connections. Several artists have chosen to represent family members who are essential workers. Barbara Walker, for example, includes a portrait of her daughter who works as a nurse, while Ryan Mosley’s painting depicts her brother as a train conductor.
Others have focused on frontline hospital staff as well as key workers in their neighborhoods – market stall workers, garbage collectors, and fruit and vegetable vendors. Wolverhampton poet and rising star Romalyn Ante, herself a nurse, will write based on her own very personal experience with the pandemic.
âThis extraordinary time in our history demands that arts organizations find new ways to respond to the present and present art to the public,â said Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery.
âEveryday Heroes aims to celebrate those people who have helped keep the company going in one way or another during this year. At the same time, it also highlights a range of ingenious and creative-inspired approaches. images and poetry, while bringing the unprecedented Southbank Center location to life in a whole new way.
“At this particular time, perhaps more than ever, this type of outdoor exhibition can play a crucial role in providing the inspiration that the visual arts and poetry provide to our collective imagination and civic life.”
Southbank Center General Manager Elaine Bedell added: âI am so happy that we are now able to give our site some artistic life for the first time since our coronavirus shutdown.
“We hope this wonderfully moving outdoor exhibit will delight passers-by, inspiring and reminding them of the invaluable work of key workers during this unprecedented time.”